Random notes, blurbs and bits from emails gathered together here… for me, for now.
How and why artists collaborate?
Defining the various ways collaboration might occur.
When collaborators are tools and not creative co-authors?
What is the purpose of this essay?
To establish a basis for the application of personas as tools in my painting practice through the contextualization of the use of alter egos or personas in the artistic practices of others as tools, masks or collaborators which ultimately contributed the the development of those artists’ practices by enabling the exploration of pathways which might have otherwise been closed to them had they stuck to the road carved out by a singular artistic identity.
The primary artists covered will be Marcel Duchamp, David Bowie and Philip Guston.
Why not just Duchamp? Why Duchamp at all? Why Bowie? Why not just Bowie? Why Guston? These questions should be addressed very early on in the essay. This might cover the first 500 words of the essay. The body of the essay would cover the three artists. The conclusion would tie them together and establish the relationship to my work with personas (provide a conclusive context).
This essay might in some ways be viewed as a sort of literature review as it will cover the work of others more than my own. It will not address my own Methodology. It would fit either in the section Painting or Personas but not in Playing.
The personas. This part I will discuss in my methodology section - Playing - but I need to take these into consideration when looking at MD, DB and PG.
Step one is the development of the tool.
Step two is the application of the tool in ways that divulge its potential to my practice as a whole.
Step three is introducing the tool into my personal painting practice.
Step four is reflecting on the first three steps and then describing them in a way so that they might be applied by other painters in their own practices.
The primary and most important collaborator of Marcel Duchamp was Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp applied himself, or rather the self he carefully crafted and projected, as a tool in his creative practice. As a painter coming out of the Romantic tradition Duchamp was not one inclined to creative collaboration in terms of co-authorship. However, as he realized the implications of the direction the work was taking the Readymades) in terms of authorship and questioning the authenticity of authorship this pointed him towards playing the question out further by questioning his own authentic identity, developing not only alter egos, most notably Rrose, but also playing with notions of ‘who’ is Marcel Duchamp...continuing to his death and beyond.
On the other side of the coin is David Bowie, the artist’s name for David Jones. Although Bowie (I’ll refer to him by his artist name) had training as a youth in the visual arts, in his late teens worked briefly in commercial arts/advertising, and as a connoisseur and collector found inspiration for his practice from historical and contemporary works of visual art ...and in turn has inspired and most likely will continue to inspire many visual arts with his work… the basis, or tradition from which he came was not that of the Romantic, lone/lonely artist in his garret studio, but the performer on the stage ...theater, music, mime and dance.
With Rrose Duchamp cleared a spot for the visual artist as performer as a tool in the late-20th century artist’s tool box. With Ziggy Bowie enlarged the space where the performer and the visual artist could together engage with common conceptual concerns using shared aesthetics. I do not assert that either artist was the first in his field to do these, rather each did it in a way that has had a clear impact in ways unlike his predecessors; further, particularly in the case of Duchamp who because of the longer time span of his entry into the art world and his death in comparison to Bowie, this impact has been lasting. Artists, visual and performing, who do not acknowledge their indebtedness to either MD or DB might simply be ignorant of the history of their own origins… scratch a 1960s conceptual artist or a contemporary artist’s 1980s-90s inspiration and the blood that pours out is likely to be Duchampian or Bowien.
French and Saunders focus. But other duos … male/male, female/female and male/female. My interests in French and Saunders is that there is no clear indication who is the alter ego...the roles are constantly being reversed. In for example Martin and Lewis, each is the others alter ego but the roles themselves do not reverse. If one were to look at male/female duos the opposites factor is played on but never as alter egos. Has comedy ever crossed the gender line with alter egos in this way? I am not referring to the comedians who had ‘drag’ others… Milton Berle, Flip Wilson, or the British tradition of drag comedy (a good mixing of the art and comedy is Grayson Perry’s ‘Rrose’ addressing ‘Fresh Widow’ at the Tate). When I think of the American variety shows of the early 1970s featuring pop stars like ‘Sonny and Cher’ I recall how Sonny and Cher always emphasized their oppositional natures… even when Cher would ‘dress up’ as the Italian mobster and Sonny as the Vamp they continued to wear the mask beneath the mask. So Cher became a Vampy-Italian mobster cracking jokes about the little Italian mobster-Vamp with the hairy upper lip. When French and Saunders reverse the roles they change all the masks. Martin and Lewis could not reverse the roles, so they split up; which in a way is what happened to Sonny and Cher… they could not cross over and become their alter ego or better said become more than the image they were cast into or play with and against it.
Keywords: collaboration, tools, personas (alter egos)
Collaboration and collaborators as tools that are both project specific and advance the artist’s practice as a whole.
Difference between collaboration as equals in a partnership - for instance in a musical group where all members are given equal credit, in a comedy troupe or duo where there is clearly an equal co-development of the skit from conception to writing through performance,...
The Wooster Group as an example of collaboration of equals (even when pulling from autobiography of members, even when an idea ‘originates’ with a member or associate, even when a member (LeCompte -director) is awarded a prize ($300,000 from J.P. Morgan/Dorothy and Lillian Gish Foundation in early 2017 the $$$ went to the group.).
There is collaboration (equals), and then there is ‘collaboration’ (tools).
Important to define and differentiate the two for my purposes.
How do I define the collaboration with the tool? How do I define the tool? How do I define the tool when it is another human being without being condescending of the human? For this it is important to look at art forms where the artist’s collaboration with others is a key to the works creation. This happens in most art forms … but is/was a concept ‘dead’ to painting since the birth of the Romantic ideal of the painter alone in his impoverished garrett. It is in part this ideal that Duchamp was engaging with; it is this ideal which drove the art market of the late 19th and early 20th century..and well into the late 20th, although Warhol’s taking the ideas of Duchamp and applying them to his Factory shook this up a bit and paved the way for the likes of Koons and Gander. But still, today the market remains tied to the ideal/myth of the lone painter in his/her studio. Even when the studio is filled with assistants. Reality is most artists who are successful, or once they have achieved a modicum of what could and should be termed only as financial success create with a team of assistants...collaborators or tools that enable the machine to keep producing as the market demands.
Gaining control of oneself, one's art, by being more than one self.
Bowie on art, writing on art...making the avant garde and art accessible to more than the academic-elite art world.
Art world is driven by the market no matter how much we’d like to think it isn’t
Interviews on Charlie Rose in 1996 and 1998
Bowie mentions Duchamp in each, and is the first to do so despite being the ‘least’ in the visual arts hierarchy ...except for Charlie Rose…
Reading all the big interview/review DB did for Modern Painters. Interesting how often he and not the artist he interviews brings up Duchamp...
Maybe Bowie would have been more comfortable with a single term of identity such as Duchamp selected for himself? Or perhaps he did by taking the name ‘David Bowie’?
Interesting to note both men left their places of origin to settle in NYC.
Finding aMUSEment in the tool
If Rrose was MD alter ego and they were 'collaborators' on artworks, then were the other artists/people MD collaborated with (such as Man Ray, etc.) also alter egos? These others with whom he collaborated were more tools to producing works of art or 'completing' taking to another level works 'authored' (or not) by MD. This raises questions of collaboration ...when is it collaboration or not? Example S… paintings ARE NOT collaboration anymore than S... is ...s alter ego. The work is too much ..., too exploitive of the ... ... picks up in bars and takes back to … studio to 'collaborate'.
Ex of collaboration per definition
Why MD collaborations were not collaborations...if so
How collaborations with alter egos might differ, or not
Bowie's alter egos and collaborations
The space/place in which collaborations occur
Bowie Berlin- Eno, Pop, Reed, Visconti and earlier Ronson, manager, Visconti, Angie plus the alter egos. And then there was Coco Schwab
French and Saunders as an ex of collaboration and character which are also alter egos from comedy. The characters they create or pilfer (thinking Madonna personas and a few others...Prince) are done so through a long standing creative partnership. Even when they are not performing these characters together one can easily imagine the other slipping into one of the opposite roles. I will not call them supporting characters because as they are written-created the characters always maintain a distinct level of equality in their relationships to the other characters in the act, so that just as their creators collaborated in the characters creation the characters collaborate in the performance out of which they are further formed. It does not matter who is performing whom. The characters themselves are and are not alter egos for their creators; they are representative of fragments of the relationships late 20th - early 21st century women have with aspects of themselves. In this since the characters are or become alter egos of creator, performer and viewer. Eddie Monsoon may have become an alter ego of Jennifer Saunders, as a character it is difficult to imagine Dawn French slipping into the role anymore than one could imagine Jennifer Saunders slipping into the role of Rev. Geraldine Granger. Yet any of the characters surrounding either of these could easily be performed by the other. One can see Patsy Stone not performed by Joanna Lumley but by her physical opposite Dawn French, and the same could be said for Saffy, Bubbles, Gran, Mo or any of the host of female characters surrounding Eddie despite all that Lumley, Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks, June Whitfield, Mo Gaffney and each of the actresses brings to performing the characters of Absolutely Fabulous. I've mainly brought examples of female characters, reason being how these are developed and performed in Ab Fab compared to the male characters who are more paper dolls. However, in Vicar of Dibley, with the exception of Alice Horton played by Emma Chambers (I will not address Letitia Crowley played by Liz Smith at this point other than to acknowledge her presence as the third female character in an otherwise all male ensemble and one who died...) all the characters surrounding Geraldine are men. The opposite of Eddie's Ab Fab entourage. Yet, it is no less hard to imagine Jennifer Saunders slipping into the role of Hugo, David, Frank, Jim or Owen as easily as she could Alice or Letitia. In neither series is this because of the acting skills of French or Saunders; rather it is because of how the characters have been initially formed from the collaborative sketch comedy of the duo.
It is never easy to invent yourself and even harder to continually reinvent yourself, yet some of us humans do this more than others, some of us do it if not all the time at least we do it more openly and frequently than our fellow human beings. This phenomenon of inventing and reinventing the self seems at times to happen today at a more rapid and frequent rate than in years, decades, or centuries past might be a result of the postmodern, post-industrial, post exploratory era we find ourselves in. The terms postmodern and post-industrial couples with the word era we encounter frequently; with the postmodern era roughly defined as the period following modernism; however, when modernism ended is still often highly contested and debated but generally the post-industrial is defined as a hallmark of the postmodern era, therefore, when speaking of postmodern the post-industrial is understood as contained within. I choose to add to these two terms a third term, the post exploratory era, which is not a term you will readily find defined by dictionary or search engine. I will define the post exploratory era as the period after the landing of men on the moon [July 20, 1969] and continuing until the date humans land on another planet. Combining the term post with the word exploratory would seem to imply that humans are no longer interested in exploration, in this case the physical exploration of places and spaces unknown to us at this time. However, this is not my intent, just as there are still elements of and interest in modernism and industrialism in the era we find ourselves in today exploration is still a part of the post exploratory age.
The reasons people do this, taking on and off the masks of various identities, are many and varied but this is not something I will address. That I will leave to the philosophers, psychiatrists, psychologists and psychoanalysts, who at times are one and the same.
Watching Bowie in Berlin
During my three weeks in Berlin this summer I took a closer look at David Bowie, who I assert today is best described as the primary alter ego of artist David Jones.
The reason I will refer to David Bowie as the primary persona of David Robert Jones (1947-2016) and not as simply the artist name for David Jones is, despite David Bowie being the name that comes to mind when we see or hear or think of the work released into the world by that face, over the course of the fifty years he created and performed as David Bowie a significant shift in the function of the name in relation to the artist and the work he created and attributed to this infamous moniker changed.
Philip Auslander writes in his 2006 book Performing Glam Rock: Gender & Theatricality in Popular Music: “David Jones renamed himself David Bowie; David Bowie is not David Jones, yet he also is not not David Jones as suggested by the fact that the name David Bowie belongs now to both the real person and the performance persona”; By expressing the relationship of Jones to Bowie and Bowie to Jones in terms of a double negative -not, but not not- Auslander is referring to Richard Schechner’s statement of performance being when the performers are not being themselves but also not not being themselves (Auslander, 5). While Auslander defines persona as a presence that is neither a fictional character nor the performer’s “real” identity (Auslander, 4) and would most likely [at the time he wrote this book] classify David Jones as the “real” identity of David Bowie that has become blurred with the persona via the ambiguity which develops over the extended period of the performance. While David Jones will always have existed as the performer of David Bowie his performance ended on January 10, 2016 at which point the line dividing the real person Jones from the persona Bowie once again became quite clear and unambiguous. After his death the life of the “real” person David Jones was not only revealed to the public in ways that is was not while he was alive and simultaneously information that might have been known to the public prior to David Jones’ death …
If you don’t mind, I have a quick question for you as an artist who frequently collaborates with other artists to create your performances, not meant for a long contemplation just a gut response. If you do not wish to answer it’s okay, I understand. I am asking this question to a number of artists with a variety of practices.
Would you consider your tools such as costumes and props collaborators in a similar way to the way you might consider other people/artists you might be working with -...? Why or why not?
“YES - absolutely - materials, sound, environment all are collaborators .... they have properties of "selfhood" in their own way - characters with which i can collaborate - react, reply, respond, provoke response in them if i get time to elaborate more i will - but i hope that tells you something!”
quick question, not meant for a long contemplation just a gut response:
Would you consider your brushes -short and long (tools)- collaborators in your creative practice? Why or why not?
“quick response - yes in both cases - tools but incredibly important ones...the bridge between hand and image/hand and sound”
if you don’t mind, I have a quick question for your painter self, not meant for a long contemplation just a gut response. If you do not wish to answer it’s okay, I understand. I am asking this question to a number of artists with ‘solo’ studio practices.
Would you consider your brushes, palette knife, palette, and/or the ... upon which you paint (ie. the tools) collaborators in your practice? Why or why not?
“Thanks for posing such an intriguing question. A great contemplation to start the day.My gut reaction, my Malcolm Gladwell blink is, no - I do not consider my brushes and palette to be collaborators. I can perhaps contort my thinking to envision them that way, but mostly I experience them as an extension of my body and person, not a sentience with which I am in relation. I experience my brushes and knife in a manner akin to my own hand. I am not collaborating with my hand; I am my hand.
Certain of my studio tools have become quite intimate and encoded with history - the ancient knife, water can and palette. This brings the memory of my earlier painter self into the studio - which manifests as a practice to extend empathy and acceptance to that younger artist and self. This dynamic I do register as a collaboration because I effort to give welcome and honor to the fullness of my person as I have traveled through time. The studio tools are aids in this - triggers for accessing interior states.
This is retrospective.
Moving forward is where I experience a more clearly articulated process of collaboration. The painting coming into being is a discrete entity with which I am in relation, getting to know, be in service to, extend hospitality to... The subject matter/process of the painting feels aspirational and novel. That is the studio collaborator. We are working together. ... I've never met that enters the studio through the painting process and my own history as a biologic entity in relation. I am collaborating with the painter coming into being.
Your timing is interesting in asking this question. Recently I took some photos of my water can and have been thinking how in some ways the accretion of history embedded in studio tools is the most revelatory aspect of artistic life. Because I am the artist using these tools, they are an extension of my body, but every other observer is the one step removed that affords introduction to another sentience.
Thank you for asking me to consider this question. I hope my response is of some utility. Good luck with the coming transformations and discoveries!”
If you don’t mind, I have a quick question for your painter self, not meant for a long contemplation just a gut response. If you do not wish to answer it’s okay, I understand. I am asking this question to a number of artists with ‘solo’ studio practices.
Would you consider your tools -brushes, paint, canvases and perhaps even the landscapes you paint- collaborators in your practice? Why or why not?
“That's an interesting question. I would say that I don't consider those things to be my collaborators. I think that when I do work collaboratively, the relationship with that person is different than with my brushes, or even my subject in a portrait session. In a collaborative relationship there is a back-and-forthness to the process in which my collaborators are having ideas and changing the way they think and act based on my ideas and the other way around that doesn't quite give the right description of my relationship to my tools. It is true that my tools inform my process, that I have to adapt my expectations to meet my tools' potential, etc. But I think I could speak of mastering my tools in a way that I could not speak of mastering my collaborators.
In short, my collaborators might be tools, but my tools are not my collaborators :)”
If you don’t mind, I have a quick question for your maker self, not meant for a long contemplation just a gut response. If you do not wish to answer it’s okay, I understand. I am asking this question to a number of artists with ‘solo’ studio practices.
Would you consider your tools -computer, camera, xacto knife, printer, software- collaborators in your practice? Why or why not?
“I am happy to answer your questions. Since I read your email earlier, I have been thinking about what it
means to collaborate. I feel like all the definitions of the word ‘collaborate’ use concepts such as ‘to work with,’ to ‘work jointly’, to ‘cooperate with’, to ‘assist’ and these concepts are done willingly. The idea of willingly implies agency and so that is how I came to my answer to your question.
Because I do not give over agency to my tools in my practice I would have to answer no, the tools are not collaborating with me. I could perhaps conceptually conceive of working in such a way as to achieve collaboration with my tools, but when I think about how I actually work I know it is not the case in my current practice.
I will think on this more but I wanted to get you my initial answer today. We certainly can talk more about this too.”
The following day…
“I have been thinking about this more and I agree there is a possibility for tools to be collaborators. I am specifically thinking of ...s work where he acknowledges the non-human agency of the … in one piece. I also think post humanism has some relevance here with the understanding of human and non-human agency. For me I keep coming back to the … and how I could reveal or perceive the agency of this object in my work? I find that a stumbling block in this line of inquiry, but when I think of … as a tool it is more viable. The … embodies content and agency in surprising ways for me, especially when I think of it as ...”
Where’s my life going, and who’s taking it there?
Why do I always do what I didn’t want to do?
What destiny in me keeps on marching in the darkness?
What part of me that I don’t know is my guide?
My destiny has a direction and a method,
My life adheres to a path and a scale,
But my self-awareness is the sketchy outline
Of what I do and am; it isn’t me.
I don’t even know myself in what I knowingly do.
I never reach the end of what I do with an end in mind.
The pleasure or pain I embrace isn’t what it really is.
I move on, but there’s no I inside me that moves.
Who am I , Lord, in your darkness and your smoke?
What soul besides mine inhabits my soul?
Why did you give me the feeling of a path
If the path I seek I’m not seeking, if in me nothing walks
Except through an effort in my steps that’s not mine,
Except by a fate hidden from me in my acts?
Why am I conscious if consciousness is an illusion?
What am I between “what” and the facts?
Close my eyes, obscure my soul’s vision!
O illusions! Since I know nothing about myself or life,
May I enjoy at least that nothing, without faith
May I at least sleep through living, like a forgotten
beach . . .
5 June 1917
Fernando Pessoa (himself)
Received via email…
“This quote is from a science fiction novel I just read:
‘Perhaps she should not be asking who she was but what she was a part of’
When I read it I stopped to highlight it. It seems to elegantly describe identity politics in the time of post humanism…”
re:Duchamp and his playing the 'art game' as a dealer/middleman for the works of Picabia and Brancusi. I found it in the essay "The Artist Readymade: Marcel Duchamp and the Société Anonyme" by David Joselit from the catalogue The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America, edited by Jennifer R. Gross, Yale University Press, 2006.
See second paragraph which follows on K. Drier's reason for founding this museum, connects to Duchamp's activities and provides Joselit's reason the two were able to work together for so long...shared understanding of the art market and desire to make it work for 20th Century European avant-garde/modernism.
As the prof with whom I did my BFA thesis work said of me and brushes “you seem to have a weird relationship to the brush”.
Hence my working with oil sticks and paint markers for so long. I’m still trying to figure out the weirdness and what he was getting at, but admit there is probably something to his remark. I have found in the past few years I’ve developed a better relationship to brushes. I like how Petra holds her brushes. Maybe it is the left-handedness or the watercolors, but she is much lighter, gentler, cradling the brush in a way that I still have a hard time doing myself. Franzi, for all his fondness for brushes, is a bit rougher and really will just use whatever gets the paint flowing so he can begin blowing. I guess I am somewhere in between.
David Bowie's Top 100 Books
Interviews With Francis Bacon by David Sylvester
Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse
Room At The Top by John Braine
On Having No Head by Douglass Harding
Kafka Was The Rage by Anatole Broyard
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
City Of Night by John Rechy
The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Iliad by Homer
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Tadanori Yokoo by Tadanori Yokoo
Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin
Inside The Whale And Other Essays by George Orwell
Mr. Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood
Halls Dictionary Of Subjects And Symbols In Art by James A. Hall
David Bomberg by Richard Cork
Blast by Wyndham Lewis
Passing by Nella Larson
Beyond The Brillo Box by Arthur C. Danto
The Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes
In Bluebeard’s Castle by George Steiner
Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
The Divided Self by R. D. Laing
The Stranger by Albert Camus
Infants Of The Spring by Wallace Thurman
The Quest For Christa T by Christa Wolf
The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin
Nights At The Circus by Angela Carter
The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Herzog by Saul Bellow
Puckoon by Spike Milligan
Black Boy by Richard Wright
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea by Yukio Mishima
Darkness At Noon by Arthur Koestler
The Waste Land by T.S. Elliot
McTeague by Frank Norris
Money by Martin Amis
The Outsider by Colin Wilson
Strange People by Frank Edwards
English Journey by J.B. Priestley
A Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The Day Of The Locust by Nathanael West
1984 by George Orwell
The Life And Times Of Little Richard by Charles White
Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock by Nik Cohn
Mystery Train by Greil Marcus
Beano (comic, ’50s)
Raw (comic, ’80s)
White Noise by Don DeLillo
Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm And Blues And The Southern Dream Of Freedom by Peter Guralnick
Silence: Lectures And Writing by John Cage
Writers At Work: The Paris Review Interviews edited by Malcolm Cowley
The Sound Of The City: The Rise Of Rock And Roll by Charlie Gillete
Octobriana And The Russian Underground by Peter Sadecky
The Street by Ann Petry
Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
Last Exit To Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr.
A People’s History Of The United States by Howard Zinn
The Age Of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby
Metropolitan Life by Fran Lebowitz
The Coast Of Utopia by Tom Stoppard
The Bridge by Hart Crane
All The Emperor’s Horses by David Kidd
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess
The 42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos
Tales Of Beatnik Glory by Ed Saunders
The Bird Artist by Howard Norman
Nowhere To Run: The Story Of Soul Music by Gerri Hirshey
Before The Deluge by Otto Friedrich
Sexual Personae: Art And Decadence From Nefertiti To Emily Dickinson by Camille Paglia
The American Way Of Death by Jessica Mitford
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Teenage by Jon Savage
Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Viz (comic, early ’80s)
Private Eye (satirical magazine, ’60s — ’80s)
Selected Poems by Frank O’Hara
The Trial Of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens
Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes
Maldodor by Comte de Lautréamont
On The Road by Jack Kerouac
Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonders by Lawrence Weschler
Zanoni by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
Transcendental Magic, Its Doctine and Ritual by Eliphas Lévi
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
The Leopard by Giusseppe Di Lampedusa
Inferno by Dante Alighieri
A Grave For A Dolphin by Alberto Denti di Pirajno
The Insult by Rupert Thomson
In Between The Sheets by Ian McEwan
A People’s Tragedy by Orlando Figes
Journey Into The Whirlwind by Eugenia Ginzburg